Ethics and Astrology

Ethics and Astrology

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Astrological organizations often promulgate explicit codes of ethics, partly because no government agencies regulate the behavior of astrologers and partly because of the tendency of astrology’s critics to portray astrologers as unethical charlatans. These codes of ethics go back at least as far as Firmicus Maternus (330 b.c.e.), who in Mathesis set high standards for astrologers:

Shape yourself in the image and likeness of divinity, so that you may always be a model of excellence. He who daily speaks about the gods must shape his mind to approach the likeness of divinity. Be modest, upright, sober, and content with few goods, so that the shameful love of money may not defile the glory of this divine science. Outdo the training and principles of worthy priests. For the acolyte of the Sun and Moon and the other gods, through whom all earthly things are governed, must educate his mind to be proved worthy in the sight of all mankind. See that you give your responses publicly in a clear voice, so that nothing illegal may be asked of you. Do not give a response about the condition of the Republic or the life of the Emperor—that is illegal. Have a wife, a home, friends; be constantly available to the public; keep out of quarrels; do not undertake any harmful business; do not be tempted by the offer of money; keep away from all passion of cruelty; never take pleasure in others’ quarrels or capital sentences or fatal enmities …. Be generous, honest and truthful …. Be reticent about people’s vices …. Do not give away the secrets of this religion to wicked men, for the astrologer must be pure.

Later astrologers, such as the seventeenth-century British astrologer William Lilly, based their ethical admonitions on those of Firmicus Maternus. In Lilly’s case, this is clear from certain passages in his celebrated Christian Astrology, one of which, as noted in Annabella Kitson’s History and Astrology: Clio and Urania Confer, says:

As thou daily conversest with the heavens, so instruct and form thy mind according to the image of divinity; learn all the ornaments of vertue, be sufficiently instructed therein; be human, courteous, familiar to all … covet not an estate, give freely to the poor … let no worldly wealth procure an erroneous judgment from thee, or such as may dishonour the Art, or this divine Science …. Be sparing in delivering Judgment against the Commonwelth thou livest in. Give not judgment of the death of thy Prince …. Marry a wife of thy own, rejoice in the number of thy friends.

In the English-speaking world, almost all explicit ethical codes for astrologers can be traced back to Lilly. Other points usually mentioned in professional codes of ethics are confidentiality, both of personal information shared by the client and of the natal chart itself; disclaiming the ability to predict events in precise detail; de-emphasis on potentiality for future illnesses, accidents, or disasters; and avoiding approaches that would in any way encourage clients to become dependent upon the astrologer or to in any way abdicate responsibility for their own lives. Astrologers are further admonished to educate the general public on the true nature of the science of the stars; establish professional standards that exclude charlatans; propagate serious astrology through teaching, writing, and so forth; and support any serious, open-minded research on astrology.

In The Practice of Astrology and in other writings, Dane Rudhyar was especially concerned with the moral responsibility of the astrologer. He warned astrologers to avoid giving their clients information they were unable to assimilate, and especially to avoid inducing a state of fear. Rudhyar wrote that an astrologer failed her or his clients when, “instead of helping the client to overcome his semiconscious fears, he accentuates and gives a mysterious power to these fears by giving them a justification against which there can be no recourse.” He also believed that prediction has value only as it contributes to the person’s development and essential welfare. The goal of the astrologer should be to open clients to their highest potential, rather than to impress them with her or his knowledge.

Sources:

Brau, Jean-Louis, Helen Weaver, and Allan Edmands. Larousse Encyclopedia of Astrology. New York: New American Library, 1980.
Firmicus Maternus. Mathesis. Reprint, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1992–97.
Kitson, Annabella, ed. History and Astrology: Clio and Urania Confer. London: Mandala, 1989.
Lilly, William. Christian Astrology Modestly Treated of in Three Books. London: T. Brudenell, 1647.
Rudhyar, Dane. The Practice of Astrology: As a Technique in Human Understanding. New York: Penguin, 1968.